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Even Polar Bears Affected by Pollution

If you ever wondered why I'm so concerned about the toxic chemicals we find in things that most people take for granted like "clean tap water or fish, consider what it's doing to polar bears, according to studies by the World Wildlife Fund.

Three new scientific studies provide strong indications that toxic contamination of polar bears is correlated to negative health impacts. This research contributes to the ever-growing evidence of the dangers toxic chemicals pose to wildlife and people.

The new research demonstrates that biological changes in the hormone and immune systems of polar bears are linked to the levels of toxic contaminants in their bodies. For example, the higher the level of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and several pesticides in polar bears in Canada and on the Norwegian island of Svalbard, the lower the level of antibodies in their blood.

Most polar bears probably have several hundred man-made chemicals in their bodies and they have never evolved mechanisms to deal with them, one researcher said. The unintentional tinkering with the hormones and immune systems of a polar bear is unlikely to be good for them.

Although the toxic contaminants that were analyzed in these studies are no longer widely used in manufacturing processes or in farming, these chemicals are slow to break down in the environment and can remain in water, ice, and soil for many years, whereas others with similar properties continue to be used on a day-to-day basis in manufacturing processes and products throughout the world.

Environmental News Network September 13, 2004

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